Apple Watch and airport Passbook usability

This year I got the chance to use Passbook properly for the first time with flights for my family on holiday. It worked pretty well, but there’s still work to do.

Ryanair, for their part, have embraced Passbook (soon to be Wallet in iOS 9) pretty well. Passbook itself could do with improving the process of importing multiple passes — currently you have to import each passenger’s Pass individually. Viewing each pass is a simple process of swiping horizontally in Passbook where they are grouped.

Apple Watch showing four Ryanair boarding passes

Apple Watch showing four Ryanair boarding passes

When using Passbook to provide your boarding passes at the airport you show your phone, and let your other family members through one by one after swiping and scanning each Pass. In some situations the staff will take your phone and swipe through them all to scan them all quickly, such as at the boarding gate. This in itself is not ideal. The experience with the Watch however is a bit worse.

When actually entering the plane I had my hands full with bags and had my two daughters and wife behind me. I decided to try using my Apple Watch to show the passes to the flight attendant who needed to see all four Passes. It turns out this is quite painful on the Watch for subtle reasons.

When you swipe sideways on the Pass on the Watch, it switches to the other passes in that group, i.e. the other passengers’ passes. However, on the Apple Watch the entire pass does not fit on screen and you must scroll up to show the seating details. If you go a little too far, the QR code captures the whole screen and you have to take more action to get out of this mode. Swiping sideways at this point does not work.

So the process ends up being very awkward for you or the attendant to do on your Watch. I had to give up and hand them my phone.

It would seem that both the Apple Watch and the iPhone need to support some kind of multi-Pass display mode to make this experience better. Before boarding, this should woudl like a slideshow of all the QR Codes to remove the need for the attendants to swipe between each. During boarding, it should simply show all the seating positions and names on one screen.